After an embarrassing showing in Piscataway, Indiana was only favored by two points in KenPom, given a 58% chance of victory over Minnesota. That may have been underselling Assembly Hall, but we also saw a completely different Hoosier team tonight.
All three of Indiana’s starting front court had over 15 points, with Trey Galloway adding 10 points in 25 minutes with zero turnovers. The offense was a little less crisp in the second half after turning it over just twice in the first half, but the Hoosiers still kept their overall total well below the 18 turnovers in the Rutgers fiasco.
The Gophers made a couple of runs throughout the game, but it was probably the most complete game from an Indiana team that’s struggled to play consistently over the course of the season. If last game was Indiana’s floor, tonight was closer to the ceiling.
Indiana now has three double digit wins against Big Ten opponents in Assembly Hall, which you can always feel good about.
Here’s Three Things we learned tonight:
Following Xavier Johnson’s ejection in the Rutgers game, Woodson opted in favor of freshman point guard Gabe Cupps as the starting point guard tonight. This is now Cupps’ third start in Big Ten games and he is now 3-0.
Cupps hasn’t found his scoring touch yet, but he keeps the offense running and turned it over just once in 30 minutes tonight. He also had an assist and four defensive rebounds.
If Woodson can count on Cupps to be this steady and available (he had just two fouls tonight, while the rest of the starters had to sit down the stretch). he’s going to compete for the starting job.
I still think Indiana’s ceiling is higher if it can get the Johnson that showed up against Ohio State, but for whatever reason, he can’t play like that consistently right now. Having Cupps play at this level at this stage in his career will help keep Indiana in games when Johnson struggles.
Mackenzie Mgbako had a career high 19 points in a career high 34 minutes, in which he also had two assissts and four rebounds. He shot well from three, but the story for him tonight was how good he looked off the dribble and finishing around the rim.
Mgbako’s ability to get hot early from 3-point range led to him being matched up with 6’6” freshman guard Cam Christie, who could not stop Mgbako on the drive. His handle looked tighter than ever tonight and we got another glimpse of why he was so highly touted as a scorer out of high school.
His 34 minutes tonight reflects his improvement on the defensive end, as well as his ability to maintain composure as a passer and finisher in transition. If he can play like this consistently, I’m sure he will be back on the NBA radar by the end of the season.
To continue being the threat he is, he’ll need to stay out of foul trouble. Regardless, it was good to see that he has gained Woodson’s trust enough to come in to close out an important game in the conference.
Like I said, this wasn’t a perfect Indiana game. But there was a lot to like about it as a bounce back from the Rutgers game.
An early sub cost Indiana some offensive momentum against the Scarlet Knights, so Woodson stuck with his starters tonight. He also shortened the rotation, with only three players seeing more than 10 minutes off the bench. Only two saw more than 15 minutes.
It was also good to see Woodson go with Cupps as the starter tonight. The way Johnson played last game was simply not acceptable for a player with his experience and Woodson made that clear with this move.
We saw more 3-point attempts and better 3-point defense. The Hoosiers hit 6-14 (42.9%) from deep while holding Minnesota to just 3-20 (15%).
The Hoosiers will need to rebound better and hit their free throws down the stretch, but it’s nice to see this team improve on a game-to-game basis. With Mgbako, Ware, and Reneau scoring like they did tonight, bench scoring would just be icing on the cake.
Purdue is going to be angry coming to Assembly Hall after losing to Nebraska by the same margin as Indiana in Lincoln. Matt Painter is tired of having the court stormed and I expect his team to look sharp.
That said, with the advantage that Indiana has had at home and Woodson’s record against Painter, the Hoosiers should have a chance, especially with Reneau is starting to look like an All-Conference player.
Don’t count Indiana out if it plays closer to its ceiling, like it did tonight.